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Local: Education

Most D.C. charters adequate but needing improvement, board finds

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Photo - Students at the Achievement Prep Academy Public Charter School (Examiner file photo)
Students at the Achievement Prep Academy Public Charter School (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

Most D.C. charter schools met minimum standards but fell short of high performance on ratings released Wednesday by the DC Public Charter School Board.

Of the 64 campuses evaluated on factors ranging from test scores and graduation rates to attendance and re-enrollment rates, nine schools' "inadequate performance" merited a Tier 3 label and promises of increased oversight from the charter school board.

But several of last year's Tier 3 schools climbed into the middle rung, Tier 2, where the majority of campuses, or 35, ranked.

The top 10 charter schools
School 2012 overall percentage 2011 overall percentage 2011 Tier Ward
DC Prep 90.8% 92.3% 1 5
KIPP DC-AIM Academy 89.4% 85.2% 1 8
KIPP DC-KEY Academy 87.6% 86.4% 1 7
Achievement Preparatory Academy 86.3% 81.5% 1 8
Washington Latin-Upper School 80.8% 76.1% 1 4
SEED-Middle School 80.3% 73.1% 1 7
Thurgood Marshall Academy 79.9% 80.2% 1 8
Latin American Montessori Bilingual 77.6% 84.4% 1 4
KIPP DC-WILL Academy 73.8% 85.5% 1 6
Two Rivers 73.8% 75.0% 1 6

Meanwhile, 20 schools were put in top-performing Tier 1, two fewer than in 2011.

This is the second year that the charter school board has released the Performance Management Framework, with the goal to hold campuses accountable for serving students and to help inform parents who are considering charter schools for their children. About 43 percent of public school students in the District attend charter schools, the second-highest rate in the nation to New Orleans. On average, the charter schools boast higher standardized test scores and graduation rates than the traditional DC Public Schools system.

"We're spending tens and tens of millions of dollars on public education in this city. At the very least, we should be able to say, to taxpayers and to parents, 'These are the results,' " Mayor Vincent Gray said.

DC Prep Public Charter School, in the Edgewood neighborhood of Northeast D.C., retained its status as the top-ranked charter school with a score of 90.8 percent. Two schools, Center City Public Charter's Brightwood campus and SEED Public Charter School's high school campus, moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1. At the same time, four schools that were top rated in 2011 stumbled and fell into Tier 2.

Scott Pearson, executive director of the charter board, said he hesitated to make much of year-to-year changes but believed students' scores on the DC Comprehensive Assessment System can make schools vulnerable to tier shifts. Pass rates on the standardized tests count for 30 percent of a high school's rating and 25 percent of an elementary or middle school's rating; additionally, individual students' growth on these tests counts for another 15 or 40 percent, respectively.

The charter board also is rolling out a parent guide to the ratings, which will be available in coming weeks. Irene Holtzman, a policy director and senior adviser for KIPP DC, where all four campuses were rated Tier I, said the ratings do sway parents' decisions.

"It's a really strong talking point for the school, when the parents are wavering between two charters," Holtzman said. "But of course, there are so many other factors, such as school climate and size and location. It's one thing, but not everything."

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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